A pair of topless women interrupted a Muslim conference in Paris this past Saturday to protest what they say was the conference’s anti-feminist message.
Bearing the slogans “No one makes me submit” and “I am my own prophet” across their chests, the two women from the feminist activist group FEMEN stormed the stage while two Imans were speaking on the role of wives in Islamic marriages.
Amateur video shows the scene as the two protesters commandeer the microphone while security closes in.
While their words are hard to make out in the recording, The Daily Telegraph reports the two shouted “No one can enslave me, no one can possess me, I’m my own prophet!” in both French and Arabic.
The two are then forcefully removed from the stage, with the video seeming to show one of the women being kicked by an unknown man as they are hauled off stage.
FEMEN spokeswoman Inna Shevchenko told French media that the two women, ages 25 and 31, interrupted a speech by two Imams on “whether or not it is OK to beat your wife”, though France 24 News reports that a recording of the conference has speaker Medhi Kabir asking Muslims to “follow the example of the prophet” in the way they deal with their wives.
Held in the Paris suburb of Pontoise, the two-day event was already the subject of controversy before the FEMEN protesters took the stage.
While billed as a conference on “a celebration of the role of women within the Muslim community” according to event organizers, a Change.org petition called on the French government to ban the event over the inclusion of several controversial speakers such as Nader Abou Anas, a Muslim preacher who has been criticized for making anti-feminist statements in the past.
The petition garnered more than 6,000 signatures prior to the event.
But a statement posted by the petition organizers denounced the protesters’ actions, calling them “regrettable” and saying the act only served to “strengthen the convictions of their audience”.
Meanwhile, the event organizers put out a statement on their Facebook page claiming they had been “the victim of an anti-Muslim media frenzy” and saying the event’s tone had been mischaracterized.
“To suggest that 3,000 people, including 2,000 women, would have remained without reaction in front of misogynistic utterances, would be an insult to their intelligence, their critical spirit and their propensity to defend Republican and Islamic values of humanism, respect for the Wife and moderation,” the statement reads.
Paris police say the event organizers plan to take legal action against the two protesters, while the investigation into a possible assault of one of the women continues.